Last Sunday was the Las Olas triathlon. I wasn’t sure how this one was going to go given the fact that I missed some training days because of the biopsy and I was stressed out and just didn’t care about it. The other variable was mother nature, which is never a guarantee anyway. Last year, all seemed picture perfect until a storm rolled in. It changed the tides, monsooned for at least an hour, thoroughly soaking all equipment and bystanders, and made for a really rough time. This year was kind of a crap shoot. A month before the race, the beaches were covered in Portuguese man of war jelly fish. I had planned several weekends of open water practice, but the invasion of these pests put those plans off completely. There was no way I was going in with the amount of them that I had seen out there. A big nor’easter came into the east coast and brought with it a lot of rain and a change of wind direction. Thankfully it cleared up the pest problem, but brought some nasty weather in with it. I watched the beach conditions almost daily, hoping to see green flags. They post a colored flag every morning to represent the conditions. Green means you are good. Yellow, it’s rough and Red it’s unsafe. They also make a note if there are rip currents, etc. and will add a purple flag if there are pests, like the jelly fish. The swim conditions were red, day after day. No more jellies, but rip currents galore! There was even talk online of the race having to cancel the swim. Then, just about three or so days before the event, things calmed down and the flags started showing yellow again. Well, yellow is better than red.
The morning of the race, things seemed pretty calm at first but as the hours passed the waves began to crash. It was about ten minutes to start of the first group when they announced that the swim was being cut short for the international distance athletes because the conditions were just way too rough. What about the sprint distance? I thought. It didn’t exactly make sense to me, seeing as the international athletes are more likely to be experienced if they signed up for twice the distance and the poor sprint people (me) were less experienced. Nonetheless, we sprint folks were doing our regular swim, apparently come hell or literal high water! I was really concerned when I saw the elite group run out at full speed only to be sent back a few feet with every attempt to advance. All I could do was watch and wait my turn and hope that it looked way worse than it was when you finally got in.
I made the decision before starting that I was going in wide and slow. There were way too many people expending tons of energy for speed they didn’t get, once the waves hit. I also saw way too many people start too narrow and have the current pull them too close to the buoy and they had to backtrack to not get disqualified. The gun went off and I stuck to the plan. I headed out wide and as calm as I could. I was off to a great start until I got pounded by wave after wave. I lost my bearings for a moment, swallowed a butt ton of water and thought to myself “what am I doing this for?” I mean really, why was I even here? Yes, I like training, I love it in fact, but I can honestly say I have never truly enjoyed a race. I have smiled, yes. I have felt great at parts of it, yes. Finishing is always good. Do I truly enjoy it the way I hear other people describe it? Nope.
I started to swim and then got hit some more, swallowed some more water and figured it was time to throw in the towel. Then I slapped myself. Not literally, the waves were doing that enough for me. I just yelled at myself internally to stop being a wimp, and figure out the best course of action. I reminded myself of how thankful I was to have the physical ability to do this. To have the fortitude to even try being as fearful as I was, and to just stop panicking. There was no way I was going to quit. I took a deep breath, swallowed some more water and turned the first buoy. I tried to swim but kept having to stop and gasp for air. The lifeguard was shouting to everyone to swim breaststroke. He said to keep your head up so you can see the waves and it was too choppy to swim freestyle. Can it ever be too choppy to swim properly? I didn’t know the answer to that, all I knew was it wasn’t working for me. Maybe I was timing things wrong, maybe I just didn’t practice in the ocean enough (that was definitely part of it). I took his advice, but turns out, I have no skills in breaststroke. I decided to swim on my side so I could keep an eye out for the waves and the buoys. I did flip to my back once to try to just calm my legs some because I knew I was kicking a lot more than I had planned and was getting pretty gassed. I finally made it to the last buoy, but I was just shore side of it, and it is required to go around it. I grabbed the buoy itself and used it to propel myself around it and head into shore. I thought that the waves would carry me home, but every time I got two paces towards the shore, the ocean pulled me back what felt like three paces. It was like being in a washing machine. I swam hard to try to stop being pulled back in and finally made it to where I could stand. I finally made it….and I wasn’t the last one out of the water! I watched as big dudes fell over just as I did, trying to get out of the pull of the waves. Everyone struggled. I’m calling this one progress because I wasn’t the only one who struggled and I got myself to calm down and keep going. Now, if only I could get my legs to move faster. Transition was a long way away from the swim exit and I needed to get moving!
I got to my bike, kicked off the wetsuit and put on my cycling gear. I grabbed my trusty steed and sprinted to the bike out area…. or maybe not. I went the wrong way and had to turn around and go back the other direction. Dang, there goes a fast transition time, along with my little energy burst. I was already tired, but reminded myself to be grateful once again. I hopped on the bike and got going. I was headed north, into the headwind. That sucked, but I knew there were several turns. When we turned left I was really surprised to be greeted by yet another headwind. What the heck? How can the wind be coming from all friggin directions? I don’t know if it really was, but that’s what it felt like. I had brought some sports drink to replenish me, but found that it just burned my throat because of all the salt water and coughing. The bike was challenging but I will admit, I did have fun. I do love riding through the park there, surrounded by nature on mostly smooth roads that are blocked from traffic. I wasn’t as fast or strong on the bike as I would have liked, but I made it and call it progress. I did better on handling without getting panicked and passed more people than I ever recall passing in other races. I got back to transition, dismounted and headed in to get ready for the run.
Running is my thing, but the run was difficult. It was only a 5k, but I cooked up my legs some and realized about a mile in I was getting blisters. Not sure if it was the wet shoes (it rained a little) or some residual sand, but it sucked! There was also no wind. Where did all that headwind go? When I made the u-turn at the halfway point, there it was! The cool breeze was magic for me! I doused myself with water at the water station and soldiered on. I tried to slow my pace a bit because the blisters were really killing me. I’ve never had blisters before from running. I’ve run in minimalist shoes, shoes that were too small, and soaking wet shoes for a 10k no less, and not a single blister. First time for everything. Much to my surprise, my time was a lot faster than I thought it was by feel. I crossed the finish line, ecstatic to finally be done!
It was a bitter-sweet moment. Darin and D2 had a scouting event, so they couldn’t attend. I really loved being on my own in the morning. I didn’t have to make them get up at an ungodly hour, or eat on the go like I did. I didn’t have to worry about what conditions they were sitting in for several hours waiting on me. I didn’t have to worry about anything but getting myself going. It was great, until the finish line. I missed seeing their smiling faces, feeling their warm hugs and hearing their congratulations.
I took some time when I got home and showered, to reflect and try to figure things out. Do I enjoy racing or not? I really don’t, but I was not sure why. I was really kind of excited for this race, up until the morning of the race. Then, I wondered why the heck I was doing it. Up until then, I pictured myself enjoying the whole thing, from start to finish. The morning of, all I did was dread the start and question why I bothered. It only got worse as I got closer to the start, but why? If I had to narrow it down to one thing that keeps me from enjoying race day, it’s a lack of confidence. I doubt myself and let my head get in the way. I tell myself to go out and just have fun, but the truth is, I don’t want to have fun. I want to kick butt! I’m not talking about getting a podium spot (not that I would turn that down), but I want to finish a race feeling like I pushed myself hard and did everything I could. I also want to feel like I did well. The swim is still my weakest point. How can a race start off well if you dread the first part of it? I have lots of take-aways and things to work on, but I feel a renewed energy for it. This time, I gave myself credit (new for me). If that ocean was chill, I think I could have done the swim mostly correct, if not all of it and I did push pretty hard on the bike. I think the issue is that I have yet to come out of the water feeling good. So, until I do, I will keep signing up for races. I will keep struggling, and I will keep pushing on. One of these days, it’s going to happen and that is when I will truly know if I enjoy racing. If I don’t at that point, fine, I don’t have to race to train, but something tells me I will enjoy the heck out of it when I do!